I use the annoying contextual quotes around “debut,” because Crover has been down this road before and we’ve been right alongside. San Francisco indie Boner Records released Melvins’ Dale Crover EP (in which Crover fronts the “band”) way back in 1992, his side projects (thinking Altamont, kiddos) have given glimpses into his first-person narratives, and then there was last year’s Skins 12-sided EP. In short: there is no lack of precedence and pretense.
The thing that’s so enrapturing about the new record, all 20 tracks and 37 minutes of it, is how Crover keeps it feeling really fresh from start to finish. That’s saying a lot for a guy who, as the drummer/backbone of Melvins, has been releasing an LP just about every year (and often more frequently) since 1987. The record has anthemic rock bits (“Hillbilly Math,” “Thunder Pinky”), experimental drum compositions (the roiling “Giant Hunka’ Cake,” the awesomely studio-manipulated “Chicken Ala King”), shimmery pop (the title track and “Little Brother,” which will take many by surprise) and at least one song – the single “Bad Move” – whose leathery bass-and-drums groove will dig hooks deep into your cerebellum.
Toshi Kasai guests throughout, as does Crover’s daughter (the shave-and-a-haircut violin of closer “Vulnavia”), but this is clearly a Dale Crover affair, and he performs just as admirably here on bass and guitar as he does on drums. And that’s saying a goddamn lot.
Melvins fans would devour this even if it were 60 minutes of silence but Crover, time and again, gives you a reason to be happy you slapped down your hard-earned dough for the outing. Hell, one minute alone of “Bad Move” justifies the purchase; the song is that incredible. And the disc will leave an impression – this is far from a solely experimental-leaning or masturbatory release.
Verdict? Fate might have a fickle finger but Dale Crover has ten nimble ones. I give it an A.